THE YOGA OF NUTRITION
by Aivanhov, Omraam Mikhael
by Aivanhov, Omraam Mikhael
Have you ever stopped to think about the power of the elements contained in food, or about the fact that, when it comes to getting you back on your feet again, a meal is always far more effective than any thought or emotion or effort of the will?
The unknown power of food
You consider food to be important only on the level of your instincts, you don’t think it has any importance on the level of your intellectual or conscious life, and yet it is the only thing capable of restoring health and energy. Thanks to the food you eat you can continue to act, to speak, to feel and to think.
Initiates have always devoted a considerable proportion of their time to research concerning nutrition. They have found that food, which is prepared with unutterable wisdom in the laboratories of the Lord, contains magic elements capable not only of preserving or restoring both our physical and our psychic health, but also of revealing great wonders to us. But if we wish to benefit from these magic elements we must first know the conditions we have to fulfil.
No one can fail to recognize that the question of food is in the forefront of everyone’s preoccupations. It is the very first problem that has to be taken care of: this is what men and women work for every day of their lives. Indeed, this is what they even go to war for: many wars and revolutions have had no other cause than that of food! But this attitude towards food is simply an instinct which human beings have in common with animals: they have not yet understood the spiritual importance of the act of eating. In fact they have no notion of how to eat. Watch people during a meal and you will see that they absorb their food mechanically, unconsciously. They swallow everything without chewing it; their heads and their hearts are seething with chaotic ideas and emotions, and often enough they even quarrel amongst themselves while they are eating. No wonder they make themselves ill: all their functions are upset; nothing works as it should any more, neither digestion nor secretions nor the elimination of toxic wastes.
Thousands of people make themselves ill in this way without an inkling that their problems are caused by the way they eat. You only need to observe what takes place in many families: before a meal no one has anything to say to the others, they are all busy reading or listening to the radio or doing their own little job. But as soon as it is time to eat, they all have some story to tell or even some old score to settle, and the meal is spent in talking, arguing and quarrelling. After a meal of that kind they feel sluggish and sleepy and need a rest, or even a nap, and those who have to go back to work do so without zest or enthusiasm. Whereas someone who knows how to eat correctly is clear-headed and alert after a meal.
How we should eat
Perhaps you are now wondering how you should eat. Well, let me talk to you about how an Initiate considers this question of eating. With a view to giving himself the best possible conditions in which to receive the elements that have been put into his food in Nature’s laboratories, an Initiate begins by meditating and by tuning in to his Creator: he does not engage in conversation. He eats in silence.
How silence can help
You must not think that silence during meals is simply an old monastic habit: a sage, an Initiate eats in silence. And he chews his first mouthful consciously and for as long as possible, until, even without his having to swallow, it has all disappeared. Your frame of mind when you take your first mouthful is extremely important because it is this first step which triggers the inner mechanism. You have to prepare yourself beforehand, therefore, and make sure of having the best possible conditions. Never forget that the most important moment in every action is the beginning, for it is the beginning which sets the tone and releases forces which will continue to be active throughout the action. If you are in a harmonious frame of mind at the beginning, the remainder of your action will also be harmonious.
It is important to eat slowly and to chew your food well because, as you know, this is good for the digestion. But there is another reason, as well, and that is that the mouth, which is the first organ to receive food, is also the most important laboratory in the cycle of nutrition, because it is the most spiritual. On a subtler level, the mouth acts as a veritable stomach, absorbing the etheric particles and the finer, more powerful energies from food, whilst the coarser materials are sent on to the stomach.
How food can nourish the subtle bodies
The mouth contains some highly perfected devices in the form of glands on and under the tongue, whose task is to extract the etheric particles from food. I’m sure you have all had this experience often: there you were, so hungry you were almost unconscious, and then you began to eat. With the first few bites, long before your food has been digested, you begin to feel better and more energetic. How can it happen so fast? It is because, thanks to the work that goes on in your mouth, your organism has already absorbed the energies and etheric elements needed to nourish the nervous system. Even before the stomach has received the food, the nervous system has been fed.
It should not surprise you to hear that etheric particles can be extracted from food. A fruit, for example, consists of solid, liquid, gaseous and etheric matter. Everyone is familiar with solid and liquid matter. Fewer bother about the perfume, which is already subtler and belongs to the realm of air. As for the etheric dimension of a fruit, which is related to its colour and, especially, to its life, this is something which is totally unknown and neglected. And yet it is of the utmost importance, for it is by means of the etheric particles in his food that man nourishes his subtle bodies.
Since man possesses not only a physical body but also other, subtler bodies (the etheric, astral, mental, causal, buddhic and atmic bodies) in which reside his psychic and spiritual functions, the question arises of how to nourish these subtle bodies for, owing to his ignorance, they are often left without food. He knows, more or less, what he should give his physical body (I say ‘more or less’ because most people eat meat which is very injurious to their physical and psychic health), but he has no idea what he should give his other bodies: the etheric or vital body; the astral body, which is the seat of feelings and emotions; the mental body, which is the seat of the intellect, and, even more remote, the bodies of his higher Self.
The etheric body
As I mentioned, you must chew your food well, but chewing principally benefits the physical body. For the benefit of the etheric body you must breathe correctly. Just as air revives a flame (you all know that if you blow on glowing embers you can get a flame), similarly if you take a few deep breaths during your meal you will get better combustion. Digestion, after all, like breathing and thinking, is a question of combustion. The only difference is in the degree of heat and the purity of the matter being burned in each case. While you are eating, therefore, you should pause from time to time to take a deep breath and the improved combustion which results will enable the etheric body to extract the subtler particles from your food. And as the etheric body is the vehicle of vitality, memory and sensorial perception, you can only benefit from its development.
The astral body
The astral body, on the other hand, feeds on emotions, elements of still subtler matter than etheric particles. If you pause for a few moments to consider your food with love, your astral body will be ready to extract something even more precious than etheric particles from it, and when it is nourished by these elements it is capable of kindling very elevated feelings in you: feelings of love for the whole world and a deep sense of happiness, peace and harmony with Nature.
Unfortunately, human beings are losing this sense of oneness with Nature more and more: they no longer feel the protection, the solicitude, love and friendship of the objects around them, of trees, mountains or the stars. They are anxious and troubled and even at home, even when they’re asleep at night, they have a vague sense of being threatened. This is a purely subjective impression for, in fact, they are in no particular danger, but something within them is disintegrating, and they no longer feel the protection of Mother Nature because their astral bodies have not received the nourishment they need.
Give your astral body the food it needs and you will experience an indescribable sensation of well-being which will incite you to manifest yourself in generosity and good will, and when something important has to be settled, you will find that you can deal with it in a conciliatory spirit, with understanding and generosity.
The mental body
In order to nourish his mental body, an Initiate fixes his mind on his food; he even closes his eyes so as to concentrate more deeply. And since he envisages food as a manifestation of the Godhead, he endeavours to study every aspect of it: where it comes from, what it contains, the qualities and virtues which correspond to particular types of food, and the entities that have had a part in preparing it (for invisible entities are constantly at work in every plant and every tree). With his mind absorbed in these thoughts, his food provides him with elements superior, even, to those of the astral plane. Clarity of thought and a profound understanding of life and of the world are born of meals taken in these conditions. When an Initiate leaves the table after such a meal, his powers of comprehension are so enhanced, so luminous, that he is capable of undertaking the most demanding mental tasks.
Most people imagine that it is sufficient to read, study and think in order to develop one’s mental capacities. But that is not so: study and reflection are indispensable but they are not enough. If the mental body is to become strong and capable of prolonged effort, it too must be nourished by our meals. We have to be quite clear about this: as the astral and mental bodies are the vehicles, respectively, of emotion and thought, we must give them the kind of nourishment they need if we are to be capable of assuming our responsibilities in the emotional and intellectual domains.
The higher bodies
Over and above his etheric, astral and mental bodies, man possesses other, even more spiritual bodies : the causal, buddhic, and atmic bodies, seats of reason, the soul and the spirit, respectively. These three bodies also need nourishment and you can give them the food they need when you let feelings of gratitude towards the Creator flood into your heart. A grateful heart (which is also becoming more and more rare amongst men) will open the gates of Heaven, and the greatest possible blessings will be showered on you. When this happens the whole of creation will be unveiled before your eyes: you will see, you will feel, you will live! Gratitude is capable of changing crude matter into light and joy, and you must learn how to use it.
Once you know how to nourish your three higher bodies, the subtle particles that you extract from your food will be distributed throughout your being, to the brain, the solar plexus and all your organs. Then you will begin to realize that you have other needs and other joys of a higher kind, and you will see all kinds of possibilities opening up before you.
From The yoga of nutrition by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, © Prosveta SA 1990.